In a Soup!

They say ‘a man’s true wealth is the good deeds he does in the world.’ If this really holds true I’d like to believe that I’m a slightly richer man today! The past week in office has been all about Prayaas. For those of you wondering what I am talking about Prayaas is a social initiative we undertook this children’s day! We got in touch with an NGO that supports homeless girls between 5-18 years of age by empowering them to be qualified, educated and responsible. The entire team at Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khanakhazana got together to collect usable items for the kids. All this stuff was collected and donated as a part of a fun activity involving some games at the orphanage! Watching the delight on the faces of the children is all you need in return! Whatever our role in society – parent, teacher, leader, corporate entity or a student protecting and safeguarding the interests of children, is our duty that must be done.

Amongst other things we can finally feel the winters in Mumbai. For me winters mean soups! I love soups and how they can be extremely comforting, healthy and be a complete meal all at the same time! How well you know the humble soup? The etymological idea underlying the word soup comes from French word ‘soupe,’ which mean soup or broth. Germany claims that the Vulgar Latin term ‘suppa’ from which they adopted word “sop” meaning a piece of bread used to soak up soup and thereby they coined in the term soup. Soups were easily digested and were prescribed for invalids since the olden times. The modern restaurant industry is believed to be based on soup. “Restoratifs” translated to “restaurant” were the first items served in public restaurants in late 17th century Paris. Thereby, bouillon and consomme arrived. Classic French cuisine produced many of the soups we know today. It is said that the soup was the first and last dish on the menu served in the first restaurant started in France.

Speaking of menus here is something interesting, Indian soup’s history – a soup preparation of course was not customarily a part of the Indian food culture. The Mughal rulers of India propagated the use of thin broths or gravies that were served as appetizers before meals in Northern India. These were very similar to soups referred to as shorbas. Shorbas were prepared by simmering meat and vegetables in water with an array of aromatic herbs. The thin broth was then separated from the vegetables and served separately. These soups were very well known in North India. However, in a typical South Indian meal, the rice and gravies were served together and this was usually followed by a sweet dish. There was no separate soup course. The advent of the British into India changed that and in their insistence on milder dishes a new innovation was born. Perplexed, South Indian chefs adapted local gravy dishes like rasam to form, thinner and milder versions called as Mulligatawny or melligu-thani or pepper water. These were served as soups and were quite a hit amongst the British.

Since, the British rule soup has come a long way, but obvious for their apparent health and appetizing reasons. Vegetable soups are good because of their stimulating and health qualities and they help to restore the necessary water balance, which in turn helps to regulate the blood pressure and salt content. They are the most nutritive method of consuming vegetables because the vitamins and nutrients in the soup are retained better unlike the overcooked vegetables. If you think about chicken soup and it’s much-talked about benefits on cold and flu attacks, you would be pleased to know that the old tales are true. Chicken soup especially if homemade has anti-inflammatory effects and can help to alleviate the symptoms of a cold. Adding a quick bowl of soup to your meals during the cold season can help you warm up and avoid unnecessary calories built up at the same time. Soups also form a big part of the dinner menus for a good reason, i.e. it is the last meal of the day and should be light.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of soup is that it can be made from almost anything and that too in minutes. Toss any kind of meat or vegetable into a pot of boiling water with some onions, sliced potatoes, add some salt and pepper. In 30 minutes or less you will have a lovely pot of soup. With soups one can get the time, money and health value advantage in no time at all. So serve it up a notch with soup!

Soup is traditionally served in a soup cup or a soup plate (a soup plate is a wide, shallow bowl) that has an under-plate. Soup cup is accompanied by a dessert spoon and soup plate by a soup spoon. Generally, thick soup is served in a soup plate and clear soup is served in a cup. A ‘tureen’ is normally used to serve thick soups. It is often shaped as a broad, oval vessel with fixed handles and a low domed cover with a handle. Traditionally, for serving the thick soup, garnish is first placed in the soup plate and then the soup is poured directly from the ‘tureen’ into the soup plate. This is the classical traditional way in which soup used to be served but not anymore. To cut to the chase – serve it as you like it may be in a glass bowl or in a katori or in a coffee mug as long as you enjoy it.

Serving Indian soups – most Indian soups are served hot with an accompaniment such as steamed rice or toasted bread. Condiments like lemon juice, sliced pickled onions, salt and pepper may be served alongside to each diner according to his/her personal taste. The ethnic and cultural diversity of India translates to a wide variety of yummy soups. Few of the more popular ones are as follows:

  • Popular shorbas that are still prepared in North India are zirabaj (cumin) soup, chicken and lentil shorba, yakhni which is a Kashmiri mutton soup, dal palak shorba made from lentils and spinach and last but not the least, the paya shorba or goat/sheep trotter soup.
  • Mulligatawny is one of the most well-known soups in South India. It is prepared by simmering meat or chicken, with vegetables and a minimum amount of spices. Till date, every Indian restaurant will have some form of the soup on their menu.

Turn the ordinary soup into something extraordinary…go the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” way!!
Start with these soup recipes this winter!

Gajar Shorba with Crisp Spinach and Toasted Sesame
Mushroom Cappuccino
Spicy Chicken and Coconut Soup

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

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May her soul rest in peace…

Tarla Dalal was a pioneer who bought home cooking into forefront and gave many avenues to it to make it glamorous. She made this routine monotonous job turn 180° and made it interesting. She did it when nobody else was in this space. Whether it was cookery classes or cookbooks, she led the way. Her roots were in vegetarianism and it goes to her complete credit that despite temptations and demand of this commercial world, she stuck to her roots and remained wedded only to vegetarian recipes. She had a business acumen and she kept adapting to the demands of the new world – be it TV shows, websites, videos or off late the Tarla Dalal App on mobiles.

She’s the first person from the culinary field in the country as recipient of Padmashri Honour of the Government of India. It speaks volume of her contribution in this field. I was fortunate to meet her on a few occasions and I always came back impressed with her humility and grounded approach. She was widely travelled and loved to discuss food about all parts of the world. All kinds of food excited her and there was nothing which she did not decide to convert into vegetarian options for the pre-dominantly vegetarian public of India.

She was my inspiration to write cookbooks and will be held as a special person in my life. Her contribution to the Indian culinary world will always be written in golden words and she will be remembered as a small, sweet, smiling, motherly, next-door lady always ready to dish-out something new, especially for you.

May her soul rest in peace.